Official: Europa League second qualifying round - who Guimarães and Wolves could face, and who to avoid
The Europa League second qualifying draw takes place today - Wednesday 19 June - at 13:00, and will determine who will be the first opponents of both Guimaraes and Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves in their respective European campaigns.
All the teams have now been split into seven groups, as is customary, to ensure that certain teams cannot meet and to simplify proceedings.
That considerably narrows down the number of possible teams that both Wolves and Guimaraes can face, and here we assess the different options potentially on offer to both sides.
Being seeded teams, both Wolves and Guimaraes will have the opportunity to avoid the most difficult teams going into the hat, already giving them something of an advantage.
In addition to that, both Wolves and Guimaraes also happen to be in Group 7, and therefore have the same potential opponents on offer for the second qualifying round.
As seeded sides, they both avoid having to play against the potentially trickier opponents present in Group 7, such as Serbian giants Partizan and Greek outfit Aris, in addition to Esbjerg of Denmark, Budapest Honved of Hungary, and Zalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania.
Instead, Guimaraes and Wolves can each be drawn against one of the following unseeded sides:
AEL Limassol (Cyprus)
Connah’s Quay (Wales) or Kilmarnock (Scotland)
Crusaders (Northern Ireland) or B36 Torshavn (Faroe Island)
Jeunesse Esch (Luxembourg) or Tobol (Kazakhstan)
Sabail (Azerbaijan) or Universitatea Craiova (Romania)
Shakhtyor Soligorsk (Belarus) or Hibernians (Malta)
While most of the potential opponents shouldn’t strike too much fear in either Guimaraes or Wolves, there are potentially one or two that they would, ideally, like to avoid on Wednesday.
For example, the standout unseeded side that either team could be drawn against is AEL Limassol, the Cypriot side winning the Cypriot Cup last campaign, as well as performing very well in their domestic league, finishing 3rd in the regular season, only behind only APOEL and AEK Larnaca, and 4th in the Championship round.
While both sides would fancy their chances against AEL, who qualified for the Europa League group stage as recently as in 2012, they certainly pose the biggest challenge of them all.
That hypothesis is echoed by the official UEFA club coefficients, a points-based ranking system utilised by UEFA to judge the ability of every club across the continent. According to the club coefficient, AEL Limassol have amassed a total of 4.985 points, more than any other side Wolves and Guimaraes can face, and the 3rd highest amongst all the unseeded teams overall.
To give some context to those points, Guimaraes have amassed a total of 9.646 points in the coefficient, while Wolves have even more, having accumulated 17.092 points as a result of the quality of the English Premier League.
In addition to AEL, Kilmarnock, who finished 3rd in the Scottish Premier League last season, could also prove stern opposition should they get through their earlier round clash with Connah’s Quay, and is the other team to avoid for both Wolves and Guimaraes. That is again the sentiment shown by the coefficient ranking, with Kilmarnock officially the second-rated team either of the clubs we’re focusing on could be drawn against.
That said, while none of the other 8 possible teams should concern either of Wolves or Guimaraes too much, they do all pose a possible long trip across Europe, which is something of an inconvenience so early in the season and, for that, drawing Kilmarnock may not be such a bad thing, particularly for Wolves.
With that in mind, assuming that all of the favourites from the first qualifying round win, both Wolves and Guimaraes would likely favour a clash with Crusaders, offering a weaker opposition than either of Kilmarnock or AEL Limassol, as well as a shorter trip than most of the other possible opponents.
In an ideal world, both sides would hoping to be drawn against Luxembourg outfit Jeunesse Esch, although that seems unlikely with Kazakh side Tobol the favourites to beat them. At the same time, while Tobol would mean a long away trip, they would likely prove the easiest opposition in terms of ability, if we again imagine that all the favourites win their matches in the first qualifying round.
Sabail, who are favourites to beat Universitatea Craiova, would also be a favourable draw, even if it did mean a trip to Azerbaijan. Fans, on the other hand, may disagree!
Ideal Draw (if all favourites win): Guimaraes vs Crusaders. Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Tobol.
Draw to avoid (if all favourites win): Guimaraes vs Kilmarnock. Wolverhampton Wanderers vs AEL Limassol.
How they got here
Guimaraes, commonly known as Vitoria SC, missed out on qualification to the Europa League last season after only finishing in 9th in the Primeira Liga, and will be looking to progress in a bid to replicate the success they had in the European competition in the 2017-18 season, where they reached the group stage.
That year, they failed to progress to the knockout rounds, finishing bottom of a group containing Red Bull Salzburg, Marseille and Konyaspor, though they did pick up 5 points along the way.
That season, though, they qualified directly for the group stage after their excellent performance in the league, where they finished 4th place overall - above Braga. To simply match those exploits this season, they’ll have to progress through 3 rounds of qualification first, starting in the second qualifying round.
Wolves, meanwhile, have qualified for the Europa League second qualifying round by virtue of their 7th place finish in the Premier League.
With Manchester City winning both domestic cup competitions, in addition to winning the Premier League, both the FA Cup and League Cup Europa League allocations went to the 6th and 7th placed teams in the Premier League instead, giving Wolves their first European campaign since 1981.